Building Community Through Nonviolent Action
PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. W
Toronto, ON M6C 1C0
Open Letter #2 to Brigadier-General Walter Holmes and Major Stéphane Grenier, Canadian Armed Forces
Re: Turning Fort York Armoury over to Toronto Action for Social Change for Construction of Affordable Housing
January 8, 2000
Brigadier-General Walter Holmes
Major Stéphane Grenier
Land Forces Central Area
Canadian Armed Forces
5775 Yonge St, P.O. Box 17
North York, ON M2M 4J1
Mssrs Holmes and Grenier,
We are writing to follow up on our letter to you of Christmas Eve, in which we propose that the Fort York Armoury space be used for affordable housing as part of a permanent solution to the growing crisis of homelessness.
As you may be aware, Claudette Bradshaw's recent announcement about homelessness included a $2.5 million fund for the transfer of surplus federal properties to groups seeking to end homelessness.
Perhaps under this scheme we can work out a transfer of Fort York, which is after all an unnecessary institution, to TASC or one of its member groups under this program. We are more than happy to issue a charitable receipt for these lands and the buildings on them.
As we explained earlier, there is much space on the land for the creation of a community which would help ease Canada's national disaster of homelessness.
We should remind you that the closing of the Armoury to the homeless further places your forces in contravention of the following conventions: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (guaranteeing everyone's right to "an adequate standard of living...including adequate food, clothing and housing, " as well as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women which is "Concerned that in situations of poverty women have the least access to food, health, education, training and opportunities for employment and other needs," and which affirms "that the strengthening of international peace and security, relaxation of international tension, mutual co-operation among all States irrespective of their social and economic systems, general and complete disarmament, and in particular nuclear disarmament" are requirements for compliance under this covenant. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, The Nuremberg Principles, and numerous other facets of international law come into play here.
With this in mind, and with our need to occupy the lands by January 17, we hope to hear from you in the coming week about how we can work together to make this happen. As stated, if the land has not been transferred to us or a related anti-poverty group which would use it to build affordable housing, we will have no choice but to peacefully occupy the site ourselves and begin renovation plans on the morning of Monday, January 17.
We also wish to remind you that, should we have to engage in this action on January 17, all participants will have been trained in nonviolence, and there will be no harm to you or any other human beings on site that day.
Legally, our position is sound. Just as one may break the law of trespass to save someone from a burning building, one may also break the law of trespass to try and enter a warm site and bring in people who would otherwise freeze on the street.
We would ask that cadets in your command be offered the chance to join us in renovating the Armouries into a more socially useful purpose. Materials which show Canada has a legal obligation to build homes, not blow them up, are readily available upon request.
We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible on this urgent matter.
Matthew Behrens and Laurel Smith
for TASC, Homes not Bombs (Toronto)
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